Progressive Running

Correct Your Running Techniques, Run Efficiently

Category: Technique (Page 1 of 7)

If you are a regular follower of my weblog you probably know what “running technique means, but if you are not, you might have heard the buzz phrase of “running technique correction” or the like. My question for you is, what is the reference to analyse somebody’s running technique? Without a reference one may only come up with a bunch of anecdotal tips heard here and there from “successful” runners, not necessarily “efficient” ones.

At any given context without a reference, you cannot analyse, criticize or evaluate anything correctly, or let say scientifically. So what is my reference for analysing running techniques? Yes, you know it, Pose Method of Running.

Here I am going to write down pretty much all major wrong doings at running raised by Pose Method.

Late Pull

Pull is one of the three components of Pose running. It is when the foot on the standing leg is lifted off the ground. The best moment for doing so is when the moving foot has just passed the standing knee. Late Pull is identified in slow motion video analysis when the foot of the standing leg delays to leave the ground after this moment. The main culprit causing late pull is the need to push off the ground. In fact, the back foot stays down for a hearty push.

Late Pull

Push off (pawback)

It is an unnecessary action mainly done by the lower leg to push the ground backwards for generating propulsion. The reason for being unnecessary is that the gravitational torque is enough to propel the runner forward. One way to spot it in slow motion video analysis is to check the direction of toes right after leaving the ground. Toes pointing straight down reveals it. Other way to identify it is to measure the change in the angle of the ankle joint before and after leaving the ground, the minimal the better.

Pawback and Late Pull are usual siblings meaning usually runners hold the standing foot down for a strong push-off.

Over-striding

Is when the runner extends the landing foot forward, reaching a point in front, perhaps to make an elongated stride. Because it usually comes with landing ahead of the body it should not be mixed up with, they are separate things (landing ahead is discussed down this post). Also, most of the over-striders land on their heels first however rarely there are front-foot landers that over-stride.

To my own observation and understanding, over-striding is a reaction to exploit pawback/push-off. When there is push-off, one common way of getting the most benefit from this unnecessary action is to extend the legs for a longer stride.

You can tell over-striding when the shin is not pointing straight down around the landing time. The knee is extended a bit to get the foot to reach further away for an “elongated stride”. Note that the landing may be with front-foot, mid-foot or rear-foot, however in most cases it is with rear-foot first, aka heel-striking. It is further discussed in Active Landing.

Overstriding, simply caused by trying to reach forward.

Active Landing

That is when the runner intentionally exposes a particular part of the foot to land first. It can be any part of the foot, but in barefoot or extreme minimalist running style it would be either front or rear, and in shod running there would also be mid-foot landing because shoes have mid-foot, whereas an actual foot has arch instead (no mid-foot concept in barefoot running). According to Pose Method of Running, runners should let the landing foot just fall, along with the whole body that is falling, to land underneath the hips, as if the landing detail is autonomously left to lower legs. In proper form the shin is vertical to the ground or the knee is above the ankle at landing time.

Exposing front-foot or mid-foot first

Exposing heel first

Landing ahead of the body

Happens when the landing spot is ahead of the vertical line crossing the centre of the body mass. Landing ahead of the body results in a ground reaction force that is against the runner’s movement. Additionally, it exerts extra pressure on the knee of the landing leg.

Landing ahead of the body is the usual sibling of over-striding but as above-mentioned, they are different things.

Trailing (the leg) Behind

Usually another consequence of pawback but generally it happens when the direction of pulling feet upwards is not towards the hips so that the leg trails behind the runner. In fact the runner’s focus is in front on where to land so the leg is left unattended trailing behind. It shifts some weights backwards so it negatively impacts the fall phase where energy is injected into the momentum. By moving feet towards hips the legs turnover would be faster. Pulling towards hips can be interpreted as “all runners should do is to fold unfold knees”. It is a buzzword about Pose runners that their knees are low. If knees stay down, feet would almost kick the bottom, do not they?

Knee Drive

Another unnecessary movement although it generates a lot of energy and might come handy at occasions like a quick vigorous sprinting uphills. This movement is found inefficient especially at long distance running.

In Pose running knees tend to only fold and unfold. It feels like as if knees are pinned on the sides so they stay where they are to work like a hinge, merely lifting shins up and bring them back down.

Driving the knee forward and a bit upwards too

City2Surf 2018 – I went against the stream!

City2Surf 2018 is ticked off and the top news is I accidentally broke my PB! If a reader is not familiar with the abbreviation PB, might think I broke a leg or something (haha).

I went against the stream at City2Surf because apparently Australian runners are getting slower year by year but I managed to be slightly faster. Will discuss that later on in this blog post.

I was not aiming for improving my record at City2Surf this year because since last year I decided to pick one [main] goal per year and this year I had picked running a full marahton at Sydney Running Festival, aka Blackmore’s marathon, in September as my main goal for 2018. I did not even participate in SMH half marathon in May – I usually run that – to avoid any over training. I always do City2Surf, I never tend to drop out of this iconic race unless I am injured so bad.

My training went really well until early July. I had a 20 week plan and I followed it passionately until school holiday started and we went on holiday two times during that period (4 weeks for us). Although I ran as much as I could when was away and my daily calorie consumption was around 5k on some days, the distance I made was way less than what was designated in the program. On top of that I had a cold for a couple of days and then an upset stomach on another day. Besides, right knee was not too happy either due to perhaps too much speed training  or maybe playing indoor soccer. So all of these contributed to a prolonged drop-out. Anyway, I started August anxious that not only I would not be able to do my main goal, I may not even be able to run City2Surf fast enough as per usual. If I had been able to keep up my training in July I would have expected to run City2Surf relatively well due to the fitness I had gained from my regular training but I was in doubt. I had one week to train and I spent most of it on tempo running (gradual speeding to goal pace, maintain it for a short period of time and slow back down).

At the start of the race I did not rush at all. Usually the adrenaline kicks in and despite the fact that running the first half of a race slower than the second usually gives better result, statistically I run the first half faster. I have been successful this way (telling from breaking my PBs) but I am coming to conclude to stay away from this strategy.

Back to the race, I maintained a steady effort and thought wisely about when to push and when to set back. Looked up the hills in front of me and tried to remember which one it was and how hard I should push at each. When I arrived at the notorious heart break hill, I was in a good shape and for the first time ever I was not intimidated at all. I got my heart rate under control at the flat piece of course before the hill in Double Bay. I ran it up with full confidence I can manage no matter what thinking I could recover at the short downhills after that. Then hill after hill I pushed and recovered while keeping my pace high on the descending side of the hill. Check out this post of mine on how to run downhills safely and fast.

When I passed 11km mark, I buckled up for the descending part of the course. There is a gradual elevation up to that mark. The last kilometer out to the finish line became too tiring but the joy of arriving did not allow thinking too much about it. When I made the last turn and saw the official clock at the finish line could not believe that if I sprint fast I would be able to break my PB, and I did it, finished by 21 seconds better than last time in 2012.

My previous PB in 2012 was 56:58. I remember I was gasping for air at many occasions during the race due to pushing too hard. It was a cold day and my face was distorted from the cold weather. This time, although I felt I was at pretty much my max effort, I was on top of what I was doing. It was a pretty cold day too but I ended up in doing better without suffering much. How? Running in Pose saves energy. The limit was my fitness level but my cardio still had capacity due to saving on oxygen consumption at this method of running.

Official Results 2012: https://secure.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2012/04075

My tracking : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/209875848

Official Results 2018: http://live.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2018/00572

My tracking: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2928405907

(proud of my pace at the last 40m sprint to the finish line)

Contributing factors

Despite being 6 years older and in a new age group, I find these items contributed to the boost in my performance:

  • Constantly looking for improvement in my techniques: a few months ago I found one more issue in my techniques at sprinting. At very high speed I would tend to actively hit the ground to bounce off quickly as an additional method of gaining speed. I have heard about such a method from top coaches, to treat our body like an inflated swiss ball, the harder bounce it to the ground the higher it goes, but that is totally against Pose Method. Although it works, it is unnecessary. So I picked this “issue” from an unexpected soreness I got after a speed training session and dropped the habit. Instead, focused on improving my falling angle to gain the required speed from it. Patience is rewarding.
  • Ketogentic diet: I lost 4-5kg of weight and found my recovery time faster than before. Getting the body to use fat as the only source of energy for some period of time is very beneficial however the extreme keto diet cannot be maintained when speed training starts (carbs are needed at high heart rates) but taking carbs as low as possible only to replenish what lost at workouts would keep the body in the same shape. Do your own research, speek with your dietitian, and give it a go. The whole world will be against you (lol) because bread, starchy foods, fruits and sweets, etc are overwhelmingly a part of our daily diet. Abandoning them leaves us with not much options unless you learn new recipes (check out Natural Nutritionist, they also have keto recipes). A bit of hassle, I know, but again, rewarding.
  • Walking: I cannot believe how much it could help runners. Walk as long as your time allows after your running sessions; incredibly it refreshes your legs and helps soreness. It is also a good substitute for running when you are injured or too sore to do a proper session. I am sure you can find a lot of online articles on benefits of walking.
  • Smiling(!): Yes, it does truly help. Not sure how though. Anytime you feel tired or under too much pressure, just force the muscles on your face to smile and see the benefit. It works for me. Hilarious to say, I even practiced smiling at my running workouts and it helped a lot overcoming tough moments.

Runners are getting slower, good or bad?

A few months ago I happened to read this article on ABC website that Australian running community is getting slower than some period of time in the past:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-14/australian-male-elite-marathon-runners-are-getting-slower/9653760

This goes completely inline with my ranking in total from 2012 to 2018. My ranking in total was 882 in 2012, and 745 in 2018. Do you think by being 21 seconds faster I surpassed 137 runners? I do not think so. If the city2sufers were as fast as they were in 2012 I would expect only a slight jump in my ranking. Given these figures I would say there were less number of runners around me this year than were in 2012, meaning those making this race around such a time have dropped off and not replaced by newcomers (we have also had constant population growth since 2012, hence higher population of runners perhaps, so normally we should expect more people ahead of me).

So is it bad? In my opinion, not necessarily. According to my account, speed is a more contributing factor to injuries than distance. Anytime I suffered from any sort of pain that hindered me from training was after a period of time that I did a lot of speed training or picked up an unrealistic goal pace. Never suffered as much from running long distances. Perhaps we are ending up in a healthy growing community of runners that do not wish to push too hard (thumbs up!). Proper studies to be done (or might have been done already) to prove this but that is what I speculate to be right.

How to catch up with training for my full marathon in September?

My main concern is what I have missed out in July were a few times running up to 28km. What I am going to do now is to revise the plan and replace some speed training sessions by long and slow runs, building up to reach close to 30km. Given tapering is two weeks for full marathon I do not have much time. The trick for preparing fast for marathon is to focus on slow runs, thanks to Jason Fitzgerald for the tip in one of his articles here. Speed training does not help me at all at this stage. City2Surf was a good benchmark that my muscle memory for speeding is good enough, what I need going forward is to improve my stamina for long running courses. Wish me luck and my best wishes for you too!

How to run downhills safely?

I bet you have always heard that running downhills is dangerous because it can injure you and running uphills is safer than all, even safer than running on a flat path. I would say they are some kind of true, especially about uphills. Regarding downhills I know of a way to run it fast and less prone to injury.

Why running downhills is risky?

It is simple, because gravity affects you more [than on flat paths], your speed increases a lot and if you travel too much in the air from one stride to another your impact to the ground will be higher than normal and that might hurt you somewhere in your legs. Getting technical with physics here, the formula is v = g.t in which g is gravity acceleration (varies around the globe between 9.8 – 10 m/s2) and t is the travel time. You should consider this formula on the vertical component of your speed, the one that is made by gravity pulling you down. Clearly, the longer time spent in the air, in a linear way the velocity increases resulting in hitting the ground harder.

If you have understood the above paragraph, to mitigate the risk of injury  at running downhills fast, you have to simply minimize the travel time in the air. Decreasing that time would keep you close to the ground to lessen the impact hence the chance of injury; but how?

As mentioned in my previous blog posts I am against some active moves, like active landing, active push-off, or active impose of stride length, etc. This time on running downhills I am not against being active at shortening stride length because at this situation gravity meddles too much with running form so that we have to do something for damage control. Here comes enforcing shorter stride length, allowing for higher cadence (stride rate)  to touch the ground more frequently. Easy on paper, tricky at practice, but that is the way to run down safely.

Note that what concerns you in here is the vertical component of that velocity not the horizontal. The horizontal one can increase with no issue and if you do not manage shorter stride length/faster cadence, the vertical component will go up too. Recap, simulate wheel by touching the ground more often to lessen the pressure at landing and allow the horizontal/forward speed roll you down as fast as possible. Mainly your lower legs move; each leg in turn beds at the knee, hamstrings pull a little, unfold the knee quickly to bring the lifted foot back to the ground, otherwise you will travel longer in the air by holding that foot up.

Is it that easy?

Not at the beginning but I assure you, once you learn it you will automatically switch to short stride length mode to run down any hills, even short ones.

No need to mention that on top of theory must come enough practice to master the whole thing. You should practice it when you are fresh (start of a running workout) as well as while being tired (towards the end of a running workout).

I can share a few notes to bear in mind to be able to perform this method correctly.

  • Make sure you do not push off the ground at all or what I am saying here will be useless. Pushing off the ground on downhills opposes the strategy of staying close to the ground. Read my previous posts on what it is and how to switch it off.
  • Activate your core and gluetus maximus (butt muscles). It is my own anecdote that squeezing tommy and gluetus maximum helps this technique a lot. The reason is, in my opinion from my own experience, this technique is mainly impleneted with lower legs due to the small range of movements required. So when only lower legs move much, upper parts of legs are pretty much for stablization and to provide a base for lower legs to move in the way required. This stablization demands gluets to hold and core to keep the turso affixed to hips.
  • Lean backwards to slow down and forward to speed up. Well, this is the same as what I would say for running on any surface using gravity (falling forward) to move on, but you may still keep that fall angle on entering the descending slope and end up in a high speed too quickly. Make sure you control it by slightly leaning backwards initially, then increase it as you feel confident. Remember your falling angle is your accelerator pedal.
  • This is a side note to the technique but is as important. Control your breathing on downhills. This is my own anecdotes again. There seems to be a direct connection between brain and eyes and other receptors that acts unconciously to incresae heart and breathing rate from perception of speed. Running downhills is usually faster than what we can manage by our pure effort on other surfances; this running downhills either causes excitement or our body prepares for taking more oxygen to our muscles by increasing heart and breathing rate due to apparent increase of speed, perhaps effort. Whatever it is, it is not necessary and a misperception. You are using less energy to go down a hill, and the only handle you have to control these two rates is your breathing one. Slower and deeper breathing always helps with slower heart rate. So look at it, you go faster while your cardiovascular system rests, is not that amazing?!

Hope this helps you run downhills better. I personally work on this technique a lot, somehow more than or at least equal to the time and effort I put on running uphills because it can actually save you more time during running races. Runners usually maintain the same form and rate of pounding the ground whereas they must, IMHO, switch between different techniques. Practice it on bumps on some roads if there are any around your usual running courses. Go up the bump and switch to quick and short strides on the way down. Turn around and do it again.

Good luck, any questions please email me on rez@progressiverunning.com or use the contact form.

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